Dogs Are Not Presents
In recent weeks, campaigners against puppy farming and commercially driven dog breeding have been upping their efforts to convince the buying public not to buy pets at this time of year. Those, like me, who spend time understanding the true extent and problems that are inherent in the modern market in puppies know that puppy farmers cash in at this time of year on the glut of impulsive shopping that goes on. The online pet selling sites are overflowing with generic pictures of cute looking puppies with the “designer” breeds in particular abundance. The dealers and breeders are pulling out the stops to get the cute and cuddly sales pitch just right to maximise their profits. It’s all about selling at Christmas – and buying of course. Actually, the sales pitch is easy, as many puppy buyers are not exactly discerning: convenience rules. Speaking of which the unregulated world of online petsale sites and poorly regulated pet shops and garden centres are mightily convenient places for dealers to sell their stock to. They really do have it terribly easy. Unlike the dogs they have producing their stock for them. Oh no, there’s no Christmas cheer and jolly tidings of joy for dogs like Susie-Belle, enslaved by the industry that is far from cute and warm-hearted.
In my efforts to contribute to raising and spreading awareness of why buying a pet at this time of year is a bad idea, one thing has struck me: people will often not see the larger picture, the background to campaigns like the excellent #NotAPresent one launched this year by the RSPCA. A defensiveness can be detected from people that may have bought a dog as a present which has proven successful all round; the dog is loved, still, by the family for whom it was bought. It’s a frequent refrain on social media and understandable in some ways, but what I don’t get is why those people then also get cross with those of us trying to stop puppy farmers profiteering at this time of year by telling the other side of their, fortunately for their dog, happy story. For, the happy endings are swamped by the miserable reality of impulsive present shopping of puppies, that later get discarded. To those who don’t agree with me that the idea of people buying puppies as presents is bad, I say, look at the reality all around us in society, understand what shopping habits the buying public display, the commercial influences and marketing ploys that people are prey to, and then tell me that buying a pet as a present is a good idea:
- Survey after survey in recent years show around half the presents bought for Christmas are returned, sold on, donated or thrown away soon after festivities are over. We live in a society that does not treat the giving and receiving of gifts as something to treasure. It’s not the deep and meaningful gesture it once was. Why should it be expected, or assumed that buying and giving pets as presents be any different?
- Every year in the days and weeks after Christmas rescue centres see hundreds of dogs being given up as unwelcome presents. This is a fact. Not an assumption. If those people had taken heed of campaigns not to buy puppies as presents, this would not happen. So, for every pet that is kept and enjoyed, there are many others who are not. Fact.
- Rescue centres in the run-up to Christmas see people giving up their older dogs, so they can get a new, cute, younger version as a present “for the kids for Christmas”.This happens. Every day, somewhere. How is buying a puppy as a present to replace the “old” dog who now languishes in a shelter, or has been killed to make room for the influx of dumped post-Christmas puppies, a good idea?
- Buying a puppy should take planning; a relationship with a good breeder should have been established and that breeder will not be wanting to send home a puppy to a busy, hectic, Christmas-excitement-fuelled home. If the breeder does not take that into account, they are selling a product and thinking of the sale. And only that. Is that the best way to bring home a companion that will live a long life as a loved family member? Not an item that may well become tiresome, or costly, once the novelty of the present has faded.
These are my key reasons for hating the idea of puppies as presents, at any time of year, but especially Christmas when all common-sense seems to disappear in people’s shopping behaviour. It’s why I back the RSPCA’s campaign and believe that when it comes to ending abusive breeding, selling and buying of puppies, individual stories, of how a puppy bought as a gift is a happy success, cannot replace the urgent need for campaigns to reach the people who are fuelling the problem trade in badly and xcessively, bred puppies.
I also think that the Dogs Trust campaign slogan “A dog is for life not just for Christmas” really needs to be updated to bring it in line with the modern approach to buying – and dumping – presents at ANY time of year. A dog is for life. And not a present.